Monday, January 4, 2016

Facebook through a spyglass

I don't do New Year's resolutions. I don't own a smartphone.

Which is not to say I don't need self-reappraisal, or that I am not online. I choose when and where I engage, rather than letting devices or media clich├ęs drive my decisions.

By Stanislav Kozlovskiy (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I recently unfolded a virtual spyglass, and took a long, hard look at Facebook, appraising the social media site and the interactions it offers. PR pros appreciate Facebook's ability to reach a broader audience. We see it as a way to help our messages go viral. 2014's ice bucket challenge wouldn't have achieved its remarkable reach without Facebook. And that's fine.

Many of Facebook's other features, however, are less admirable. Quizzes that tell you which words you used most often in your posts? Recycled click-bait stories? Re-shared posts that decry cancer and government ineptitude? Intentionally incendiary political needling meant to provoke rather than illuminate? These solve little.

(Cats? Recipes? Secret uses of hydrogen peroxide? You're on your own, and your mileage may vary.)

I'm no biblical scholar, but the Tower of Babel and Facebook have much in common. I enjoy learning of friends' successes, but I've come to realize few of these acquaintances are sharing their setbacks, too. So we get an incomplete portrait of their lives. Some of it serves up insight. Much of the rest is less illuminating.

So if I choose to contribute less to the din of Facebook, it's not a criticism of friends. It's my way of saying, "enough, already." I'll prune away posts of those who lean on pseudo-Limbaugh political labeling. I'll listen, however, if offered genuine solutions to solve problems. But I don't need to read snarkisms that throw mud upon our society's achievements, even the inconsistent ones.

Call it a resolution, if you wish. Facebook will learn less about me. But there's a good chance that I'll learn more by spending authentic time with real friends. And I won't need a spyglass to experience them.